“I bought my ’59 sunburst Les Paul from my first wife’s brother... he’d gotten sick – he called me and said, ‘I’m probably not gonna make it. Will you buy my Les Paul?’ Now it gets to live on and still make music”: Vince Gill on his beloved 'Burst

Vince Gill performs onstage at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida on April 1, 2007
(Image credit: Kyle Hoelzel/Getty Images)

Well over six decades after they rolled out of the company's Kalamazoo, Michigan factory, the sunburst Les Pauls Gibson manufactured from 1958 to 1960 remain arguably the most coveted and valuable electric guitars in the world. 

The cult around those golden era models is such that there's even an acclaimed book about them, not to mention their eye-watering value on the resale market – price tags high enough to make even bona-fide rock stars shy away from digging into their wallets for one. 

Jason Isbell, for instance, told Guitar Player in 2020 that – though he initially felt he didn't particularly need a 'Burst – he ended up taking on a series of gigs he normally wouldn’t take, such as birthday parties and other private engagements, to afford late Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King’s legendary “Red Eye” 'Burst. “I met some interesting people and went to some parts of the Hamptons that I’ve not been to before,” he joked.

Vince Gill – best-known as one of the all-time Nashville guitar greats – similarly felt that, given his somewhat infrequent Les Paul use, a 'Burst was unnecessary. A sad and deeply personal twist of events, however, would end up bringing one into his life.

“I bought [a] ’59 Les Paul from my brother-in-law from my first marriage [to country singer Janis Oliver],” Gill told Guitar Aficionado in 2017. “We were great friends, and he owned this great ’59 sunburst since 1959. He’d played it his whole life but got sick a couple of years ago. He called me and said, ‘There’s not much they can do for me. I’m probably not gonna make it. You’ve always been my favorite guitar player. Will you buy my Les Paul?’

Vince Gill performs onstage at the Las Vegas Hilton on December 9, 2006

(Image credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“I didn’t have a sunburst Les Paul in my collection, and I previously couldn’t justify the expense because I don’t play a Les Paul that much, But this one came along and I said, ‘There you go,’” Gill continued. “I got the one I was supposed to have. My friend played it for 40 years, and now it gets to live on and still make music.”

The 'Burst occupies pride of place in Gill's collection, which is largely housed in his home studio. Of his collecting habit, Gill, with a chuckle, told GP in 2022, “I’m sure I’ve got a couple of hundred guitars, but I don’t have a boat or multiple houses or cars. I wouldn’t say it’s out of control, but it’s borderline.”

Jackson Maxwell
Associate Editor, GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.

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